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FOS denies it is struggling with caseload

Policyholder waits 18 months for complaint to be heard

The Financial Ombudsman Service has denied it is struggling to cope with the flood of endowment complaints after leaving a homeowner with a £71,000 shortfall waiting for over 18 months for his complaint to be processed.

Cliff Staples took out an endowment with Barclays Life in 1999 and was sent a red letter in the next year warning of a shortfall.

He complained to Barclays in 2004 that he was not informed about the risks of the policy and went to the FOS when it rejected the complaint.

In a letter to Staples earlier this year, the FOS admitted it had been unable to progress the investigation because of the volume of endowment complaints it is handling. The policy is showing a shortfall of between £34,000 and £71,400 on a £112,000 mortgage.

The FOS says 90 per cent of cases are resolved within nine months but some more complex cases take longer. It says it hopes to resolve Staples’ complaint in the next few months.

Spokeswoman Emma Parker says: “We are not struggling to process complaints. We took a deliberate decision to separate endowment complaints and prioritise cases where customers are suffering from real financial difficulties, such as critical-illness cases.”

Staples, who switched to a repayment mortgage last year, says: “This is horrible and I need this resolved. I am unemployed and struggling to pay off my mortgage.”

Barclays Life spokeswoman Emma Rees says: “Following a thorough investigation of this case, we did not feel it was appropriate to uphold the complaint.

“Barclays Life always tries to deal fairly and thoroughly with endowment complaints in line with the guidelines set out by the Financial Ombudsman Service. If customers remain dissatisfied with the outcome of any investigation, they can, of course, refer their case to the ombudsman.”

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